Modernizing the Marine Transportation Security Regulations: What We Heard Report

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The Marine Transportation Security Regulations help protect Canada’s marine transportation system from illegal interference.

The regulations apply to:

  • any Safety of Life at Sea Convention Vessel (SOLAS ship)
  • any vessel in Canada, and any Canadian vessel operating outside of Canada on a voyage between a port in one country and a port in another country that:
    • is more than 100 tons gross tonnage, but not a towing vessel
    • carries more than 12 passengers, or
    • is a towing vessel towing a barge carrying certain dangerous cargoes

The regulations also apply to any marine facility that interfaces with these vessels.

Since it was updated in 2014, several new factors have emerged that directly impact the regulations and the Marine Security Operations Program:

  • preclearance operationalization now allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to screen passengers before they cross the Canada-U.S. border while passengers are on Canadian soil
  • the Ports Modernization Review has identified challenges and solutions to improve port security at Canada Port Authorities
  • several regulatory gaps have been identified

The Cabinet Directive on Regulation requires departments to regularly review the regulations that they manage. Modernizing the Marine Transportation Security Regulations will make sure that that the marine transportation security framework is appropriate, effective, and can respond to modern threats and risks.

The consultation

On March 22, 2021, Transport Canada launched an online public consultation on modernizing the Marine Transportation Security Regulations. The consultation included an overview of proposed changes, open discussion forums, and a survey.

Stakeholders were briefed on this project and participated in discussions through the Canadian Marine Advisory Council’s Marine Security Standing Committee meeting on April 8, 2021.

The online consultation session ended on April 30, 2021. Participants were asked to submit additional comments by the end of May 2021.

This report summarizes the comments we received, and the themes that emerged during these consultations.

Feedback from participants

The online survey lets us gather the industry’s views on a wide range of issues.

In total, we heard from 53 respondents with various backgrounds (like facility operators, vessel owners or operators, labour representatives, shipping agents, etc.). These participants shared feedback and comments on a wide range of topics, including:

  • emerging threats and technologies
  • oversight and enforcement challenges
  • the design of the regulations
In order of importance, how would you rank the following marine security issues?
Rank Topic ScoreFootnote 1
1 Cybersecurity 4.8
2 Marine Transportation System Resilience 4.5
3 Economic Security 4.3
4 Terrorism 4.1
5 Organized Crime / Container Security 3.9
6 Biosecurity / COVID-19 3.5
7 Arctic Marine Security 2.7

Respondents raised the issues that were most important to them. The top three issues were:

  1. cybersecurity
  2. system resilience
  3. economic security

Cybersecurity risks will continue to threaten Canada's evolving transportation system. Long-held security concerns like terrorism and organized crime are also front-of-mind for participants. To address such a wide range of issues, we know it’s important to find solutions that support the resilience of infrastructure, operators, and the transportation system.

Most participants (52%) either agreed or strongly agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted marine security. As the pandemic continues to evolve, Transport Canada will monitor the situation to keep Canada’s transportation system secure.

Transportation security clearance

This review has not added a requirement for all port workers to get a transportation security clearance.

Transport Canada is committed to ensuring that the Marine Transportation Security Clearance Program effectively manages marine security risks.

Do you think that the Transport Canada Marine Transportation Security Clearance is an effective way to reduce security threats in restricted areas of marine facilities and ports?
Response Results
Yes 69.8%
No 11.3%
Unsure 15.1%
Not applicable 3.8%

The majority of participants (69%) said that transportation security clearances effectively reduce security threats in the restricted areas of marine facilities and ports. A small number had concerns about how marine transportation security clearances are applied to classes of workers and whether they’re effective at addressing security issues beyond terrorism, like organized crime.

There were also concerns that Transport Canada will use this update to require all marine port workers to secure transportation security clearances. Participants felt this could have a negative impact on port workers, industry, and Transport Canada. Some participants expressed concerns with how their feedback would be taken into account.

In response to the concerns raised, we would like to underscore that this MTSR modernization initiative is not proposing to expand marine TSC requirements to all port workers. Transport Canada is committed to ensuring that the Marine Transportation Security Clearance Program effectively manages marine security risks. We also recognize the importance of ongoing productive discussions with participants through and value their perspectives. We look forward to future discussions on this modernization initiative, including through the spring and fall national Canadian Marine Advisory Council.

Participants also shared feedback on using transportation security clearances for seafarers. Most participants (50%) either agreed or strongly agreed that leaving a security clearance out of a seafarer’s identification document would impact marine security.

That being said, the majority (64%) felt that a seafarer identification document that includes a security clearance isn’t required for day-to-day work.


Cybersecurity was ranked as the number one issue among participants. Most (43%) felt that the regulations could do more to address cybersecurity issues in marine transportation. Participants were concerned about gaps like:

  • a lack of cyber-related knowledge
  • a lack of direct, cyber-related language in the regulations
Do the Marine Transportation Security Regulations adequately address cybersecurity issues in the marine mode?
Response Results
Yes 20.8%
No 43.4%
Unsure 34%
Not applicable 1.9%

When asked how Transport Canada could address emerging cyber technology and security threats, most participants (41%) felt that the Department should address these issues through guidance materials and best practices, updating regulations, and joint activities with industry.

How should Transport Canada address emerging cyber technology and cyber security threats?
Response Results
Guidance materials / Best practices 27.3%
Joint TC-industry activities 15.9%
Regulatory amendments 9.1%
Other 6.8%
All of the above 40.9%

Modernizing enforcement

How effective is the Marine Transportation Security Regulation’s enforcement framework?
Response Results
Very Effective 0%
Effective 49.1%
Neither effective nor ineffective 17%
Ineffective 7.6%
Very ineffective 5.7%
Unsure 15.1%
Not applicable 5.7%

While most participants (49%) felt that the regulations’ enforcement framework is effective and doesn’t cause issues in their day-to-day work (54%), some participants did raise some long-standing challenges and shared their views:

  • enforcement tools should be updated to promote compliance with the regulations, as very few other than “notices of compliance” are used
  • vague language or unclear expectations expressed in the regulations create interpretation challenges and lead to inconsistent application of the regulations across Canada by Transport Canada inspectors
  • using tickets could be an effective day-to-day enforcement tool
  • to improve capacity and service delivery, Transport Canada should consider delegating (assigning) enforcement actions to recognized organizations or other partners

Participants also raised specific issues about regulatory non-compliance, including:

  • pleasure craft entering restricted areas
  • visibility of port passes in restricted areas

Restricted areas and access control

Is Restricted Areas Two an effective tool to ensure port security and protect critical infrastructure?
Response Results
Yes 46.2%
No 32.7%
Unsure 15.4%
Not applicable 5.8%

While most participants (46%) believe that using restricted areas (specifically, “restricted area two” or “R2”) is a good way to keep ports secure and protect critical infrastructure, many (32%) believed that these areas aren’t effective.

Participants noted that, while using restricted areas two is a risk-based measure, the actual risks that face operators may not be correctly captured. In some instances, participants noted that the security measures for some infrastructure is too high which has led to workers being captured unnecessarily.

In other instances, areas where participants felt there were higher risks, like container terminals, aren’t designated as restricted areas two.

Participants also highlighted potential issues with restricted areas two. This included how easy they can be to access, and a need for consistent designation of these areas.

Finally, a majority of participants (56%) felt that biometrics are a good tool to control access. That being said, many participants noted that these technologies aren’t one-size-fits-all, and the high costs make it hard for all stakeholders to use the technology.

Occasional-use marine facilities

Are operating expectations for occasional-use marine facilities still relevant in today’s marine security context?
Response Results
Yes 40.4%
No 17.3%
Unsure 17.3%
Not applicable 25%

Most participants (40%) felt that the existing operating expectations for occasional-use marine facilities are still relevant in today’s marine security context. Participants that disagreed highlighted the risks related to interfaces and the need for consistent security, regardless of how often a facility is used.

Other participants had concerns about the differences between the regulatory requirements and real-world experiences of occasional-use operations.

The design of the regulations

The majority of participants (58%) felt that the regulatory requirements are clear and usable. Additionally, a majority (66%) also felt that it’s easy to apply the regulatory requirements in their day-to-day work.

Some participants did have concerns about specific requirements that they feel are vague and too flexible. This leads the requirements to be understood and applied in many different ways. Approximately a third of participants (30%) felt that Transport Canada’s expectations for vessel and facility inspections aren’t clearly explained in the regulations.

Are Transport Canada’s expectations for vessel and facility inspections clearly articulated in the regulations?
Response Results
Yes 49.1%
No 30.2%
Unsure 18.9%
Not applicable 1.9%

When asked about parts of the regulations that aren’t necessary, participants noted:

  • overlapping or dated requirements
  • no emphasis on electronic records and data exchange

When asked about ways we could reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses, participants suggested:

  • using checklists for security levels
  • reducing duplicated work
  • creating new ways to manage transportation security clearances
  • using more technologies, like biometrics
  • reducing paperwork

When asked about provisions in other jurisdictions, participants felt it was important that Canada’s regulations align with those from the United States, where appropriate.

Recommendations from participants

Participants gave us several specific recommendations in addition to those noted above for the regulations, including:

  • update and clarify several sections of the regulations
  • add specific language to deter tampering (for example, fence cutting)
  • add a provision so those with a transportation security clearance can work while their renewal application is under review
  • add a requirement to report security concerns to labour organizations
  • make a change so that voyages from a Canadian location to an offshore installation aren’t considered an international voyage
  • make non-SOLAS vessels exempt from some International Port and Ship Security Code requirements

As we continue to develop and advance this regulatory initiative, these recommendations – in addition to those noted throughout our consultations – will be taken into consideration and assessed further.

Stakeholders also provided valuable inputs on the delivery/oversight of the Marine Security Operations Program. While these may not directly inform regulatory changes, they highlight the importance of effective program delivery when the regulations requirements are being overseen and applied. Comments related to non-regulatory challenges/issues, such as national consistency regarding application and enforcement, will be assessed by Transport Canada’s Marine Security Operations Program.

Next steps

This project is part of Transport Canada’s work to:

  • make Canada’s marine security framework more flexible
  • reduce existing gaps in the regulations
  • make the regulations more usable and accessible, and
  • make sure existing regulations are appropriate, effective, and meet our policy goals

Transport Canada is analyzing the feedback we collected, and it will help us develop this regulatory proposal. Specifically, the comments we received will affect the proposal’s drafting instructions and regulatory impact analysis statement (RIAS).

Thank you to everyone who shared their time, views, and experiences.

Key dates

  • What We Heard report published: August 2021
  • Fall meeting of the Canadian Marine Advisory Council: November 2021
  • Spring meeting of the Canadian Marine Advisory Council: April 2022
  • Comment period for pre-publication in the Canada Gazette, Part I: Fall 2022